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Nuclear pulsed propulsion

  1. Nov 6, 2003 #1
    hi there

    I am a middle school student who just recently read "Visions". I became very interested in nuclear pulsed propulsion and am considering doing some type of deonstration for my school science fair. (I also do 3d computer modeling and animation)

    3 questions

    1- is there any good sorce on the net or in a book that has good infor on nuclear pulsed propulsion
    (visions only mentions is briefly)

    2- I read that maybe a nuclear shockwave wouldn't be present in the absence of an atmosphere in outerspace. is this true? (I assume it isn't or the whole idea of nuclear pulsed propulsion wouldn't have been persued)

    3- any ideas on a demonstration?

    thanks a lot
    Jeremy Bloom
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 6, 2003 #2


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    Jeremy, I am going to move this thread to the Nuclear Engineering board, where some of the skilled folks there could give you the info.
  4. Nov 6, 2003 #3


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    Hi jeremy,

    There was decent amount of research done with nuclear pulse engines back in the 60s (I think). The project name was "Orion", so doing a google or library search on "Orion Project" would be a good place to start.

    The main reason the project was scrapped was the huge problem of nuclear radiation fallout if it was used in the atmosphere.

    There wouldn't be fallout if it's only used in space, but the problem then becomes the ENORMOUS weight you'd need to launch. The biggest part of one of those things would be the huge shock absorber which would be necessary to slow the acceleration down to liveable levels.

    Back when they were doing underground tests on nuclear weapons, they dug a deep pit, put a bomb in the bottom, with a steel plate on top of it (to "hold" the explosion back). They filmed the detonation. In one frame the plate was there, in the next it was gone. The plate had actually enough energy to leave the solar system.
  5. Jan 3, 2004 #4
    Not enormous, actually.

    There were plans to launch a small ORION based craft using a Saturn V, but anti-nuke-ists and enviro-mental-ists prevented such a design to reach even a meter off the Earth.

    Another design for pulsed nuclear propulsion was the Daedalus Project. Instead of a simpler fission-based system, it used fusion. Electron guns would bombard the fusion pellets and make small explosions, which would eventually allow it to reach 0.12 c. The British Interplanetary Society devised up a mission which would send it to Barnard's Star, approximately 5.9 lightyears away. The main problem, unfortunately, was the fact that it required helium-3, a rare isotope of helium that allowed easier fusion reactions to occur. The helium-3 would either be mined from Luna's surface, where the solar wind was caught and held argon, hydrogen, and helium (3) atoms. Despite the everlasting wind of Sol, it just wasn't, no, isn't feasible from our Moon. Therefore a mining operation to Jupiter was decided to gain the fuel for Daedalus. I only hope we'll actually get off this bloody planet to start the unstarted projects we talked about.

    Jeremyb, I believe that there were test models of the ORION project that used conventional explosives to demonstrate the effeciency of their plans. Perhaps you could make your own model to impress the science (un)fair judges, and get some hot nerd/geek chicks to go with you. *Wink wink, hint hint, nudge nudge* Say no more.
  6. Jan 4, 2004 #5


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    :wink: The Saturn V is enormous...

    Welcome to the forums, Lord Flasheart!
  7. Jan 4, 2004 #6

    Hi everyone....THANK YOU very much for the help.

    I have made a scale model (or soon to be a scale model) of Nuclear Pulsed Propulation. It is powered by a 12 gram co2 carterage. This emptys into a PVC chamber where the pressure builds up and breaks a Mylar membrane which sends a bubble of CO2 into a long tube with a spaceship in it.

    Thanks again

    Also..... does anyone know the force of a small atom bomb in PSI???

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